Six Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My B2B Public Relations Career

My family has spent a collective 100 years in B2B public relations. While my grandfather and father represent about 80 of those years, I’ve been around the industry about 20 years.

In spite of that collective wisdom, I’ve come to realize there were some hard lessons I had to learn myself.  Can I share them with you?

Lesson #1– Don’t kid yourself – know what you don’t know.  This is easy to do, especially around year three or four of your B2B PR career. At that point, you have a working grasp of the tools, an understanding of how to serve a client and established reporter relationships. It sometimes leads to a premature sense of “I’ve got this.” If you, at any point in your career, actually start believing you’ve got it knocked, you are done like a piece of burnt toast. Instead, use it as a jump start opportunity to determine what you need to learn next. This is actually where your career starts to get interesting.

Lesson #2 – Practice intuition: You are developing instincts, born of many pitches, client meetings, team brainstorms and (most importantly) noble failures. Trust your emerging “gut” and listen to it. Share those insights with others and fine tune them for prime time. The very best young professionals are the folks that are willing to take a professional risk or “leap of faith” in order to grow.  Be bold.

Lesson #3 — The industry has talented leaders, but it’s up to you to find mentors:  There are a lot of inspiring leaders in our profession: Brian Solis, Todd Defren, Steve Rubel, Jason Falls, Arik Hanson, Ike Piggott and Jeremy Pepper are all just a post away. But, realistically, you can’t expect them to have much (if any) direct time with you.  You’ve got to find mentors that have the time and insight to help nurture your career.  Those folks are harder to discover and are often not your direct supervisor.  How do you start the search?  Look for the natural teachers in your organization, instead of the obvious leaders. Who gets a thrill from helping others reach their full potential?

Lesson #4 — As a leader, your job is to serve others:  At our firm, young Account Executives sometimes lead AAEs. That means that we have folks with less than a year of experience tasked with helping others to grow.  This is a privilege.  The more senior you become, the more you need to approach your junior colleagues as a servant. What inspires them? Scares them? How can you positively challenge them? As a leader, your success is directly correlated to the ability of your team. So shine the light on them and forget about “being in charge.”

Lesson #5 – Rehearse your disasters: I use this piece of advice every day.  What could go wrong?  What’s the Achilles heel of this presentation? Will this video storyline pan out? Is this the right staffing mix for this client? Does this angle feel current? (next week I’ll share 5 Rules I Wish I Knew About Media Relations When I Started My B2B Public Relations Career) What’s the downside of this decision? If you aren’t asking these questions every day, you’re not doing your job.

Lesson #6: Anticipate change: My grandfather would have a hard time initially recognizing lightning quick microblogs or diligent bookmarking as PR, but he would have quickly understood the potential.  So, what’s next for our profession? Are you focused on what’s after Twitter? Can you tell a client if they ask you? Does your current career trajectory tee you up to become a “3.0 PR professional?”

You can find more great career advice for public relations professionals at Brazen Careerist’s PR/New Media Group, the Council of PR Firm’s Job Center and Culpwrit.  If you could go back in time to the beginning of your career, what lessons would you tell yourself?

(photo by Capture Queen)

To reach Elizabeth:

Phone: 212.840.0017
Twitter: @elizabethsosnow
LinkedIn: Elizabeth Sosnow